The head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has said that atrocities amounting to genocide were being perpetrated in Tigray, in his first comments about the conflict in the region that erupted in November and has claimed the lives of thousands.
Abune Mathias, who has been head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church since 2013, did not say who was responsible for this. He spoke in a video message posted on Twitter on Friday by an American religious charity worker.
The video begins with Abune Matthew addressing all Ethiopians and the international community.
“Nowadays, all over Ethiopia in general and in Tigray in particular, many barbarisms have been conducted,” he said.
Later in the video, he pointed out: “Genocide is being committed now,” and then described alleged atrocities such as the rape of women and the bombing and other types of church destruction.
Abune Mathias, who comes from Tigray and is based in Addis Ababa, said in the video message that he was prevented from speaking out about the atrocities. However, he did not specify who prevented him from speaking.
Fighting in Tigray erupted in early November between federal forces and the People’s Liberation Front of Tigray (TPLF), a party that dominated the national government until three years ago. The government announced its victory at the end of November and claimed that the area was returning to normalcy. Aid agencies said, however, that many parts of Tigray remained unreachable due to the ongoing conflict.